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Self-assembled biological filaments form 3D microelectronics

February 12, 2013 1:24 pm | News | Comments

The size of electronic components is reaching a physical limit. While 3D assembly can reduce bulk, the challenge is in manufacturing these complex electrical connections. Biologists and physicists in France have recently developed a system of self-assembled connections using actin filaments for 3D microelectronic structures. Once the actin filaments become conductors, they join the various components of a system together.

Researchers develop molecular “calcium sponge” to tackle heart failure

February 11, 2013 9:47 am | News | Comments

Calcium plays a major role in orchestrating normal heart pump function. The condition known as diastolic heart failure occurs when the calcium signaling process is slowed, preventing the heart from relaxing. Scientists in Minnesota have utilized molecular genetic engineering to optimize heart performance in models of diastolic heart failure by creating an optimized protein that can aid in high-speed relaxation similar to fast twitching muscles.

Cell circuits remember their history

February 11, 2013 8:02 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have created genetic circuits in bacterial cells that not only perform logic functions, but also remember the results, which are encoded in the cell’s DNA and passed on for dozens of generations.

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Sensing the light, but not to see

February 7, 2013 10:54 am | by Diana Kenney, Marine Biology Laboratory | News | Comments

Slender, limbless, and primitive, lancelets are not exciting animals. But one such animal, amphioxus, appeared on the cover of a scientific journal recently because of the melanopsin-producing cells that Marine Biology Laboratory researchers found in this otherwise simple chordate. The light-sensing cells of amphioxus, they discovered, may be the ”missing link“ between the visual cells of invertebrates and the circadian receptors in our own eyes.

Researcher taking shot at flu vaccine that's more effective, easier to make

February 7, 2013 8:52 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue University | News | Comments

In the midst of an unusually deadly flu season and armed with a vaccine that only offers partial protection, a Purdue University researcher is working on a flu vaccine that overcomes the need to predict which strains will hit each year and eliminates the common causes of vaccine shortages.

When the cell’s two genomes collide

February 6, 2013 12:17 pm | News | Comments

Plant and animal cells contain two genomes: one in the nucleus and one in the mitochondria. When mutations occur in each, they can become incompatible, leading to disease. To increase understanding of such illnesses, scientists at Brown University and Indiana University have traced one example in fruit flies down to the individual errant nucleotides and the mechanism by which the flies become sick.   

Study: Popular drug-carrying nanoparticles get trapped in bloodstream

February 6, 2013 12:05 pm | News | Comments

Many medically minded researchers are in hot pursuit of designs that will allow drug-carrying nanoparticles to navigate tissues and the interiors of cells, but University of Michigan engineers have discovered that these particles have another hurdle to overcome: escaping the bloodstream. According to their work, the immune system can't get rid of some of the promising drug carriers quickly.

Scientists build harness for powerful radiation cancer therapy

February 5, 2013 8:24 am | News | Comments

Low-energy radiation particles, known as beta particles, are often used in radiation treatments for cancer patients. For years, scientists have been studying how to use alpha particles, which are far higher in energy, for the same treatments. The challenge has been finding ways to focus these powerful particles on target cancers without hurting other tissues. A collaboration of scientists have recently created a gold nanoparticle that can transport powerful alpha particles directly to tumors for treatment.

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Academic institutions added more science, engineering R&D in last few years

February 5, 2013 7:51 am | News | Comments

Science and engineering research space at the nation's research-performing colleges and universities increased 3.5% from fiscal year (FY) 2009 to FY 2011, growing to 202.9 million net assignable square feet (NASF), according to recent data from the National Science Foundation's Survey of Science and Engineering Research Facilities. Biomedical fields account for the majority of the growth.

Scientists probe human cells with high-frequency sound

February 4, 2013 8:29 am | News | Comments

Sound waves are widely used in medical imaging, such as when doctors take an ultrasound of a developing fetus. Now scientists have developed a way to use sound to probe tissue on a much tinier scale. Researchers deployed high-frequency sound waves to test the stiffness and viscosity of the nuclei of individual human cells. The probe could eventually help answer questions such as how cells adhere to medical implants and why healthy cells turn cancerous.

Researchers synthesize first biologically effective perfume

February 1, 2013 9:17 am | News | Comments

Although several hundred different forms of the immune genes exist in humans, individuals only have a few variants which co-determine their typical body odor, their individual “scent”. Scientists in Germany have succeeded in explaining the chemical nature of this individual scent. They have also synthesized it and have tested its effectiveness on people. The results show how perfumes that are completely effective biologically can be produced synthetically without resorting to animal products.

Synthetic biology method dramatically cuts down “manufacturing” time

January 31, 2013 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have reported that they have developed a method that cuts down the time it takes to make new “parts” for microscopic biological factories from two days to only six hours. The technique does away with the need to re-engineer a cell’s DNA every time a new part is needed. The researchers say their research brings them another step closer to a new kind of industrial revolution, where parts for these biological factories could be mass-produced.

Enzymes may represent new genre of “intelligent” miniature motors

January 30, 2013 11:16 am | News | Comments

The basis of natural biological motors essential to life are enzymes—proteins that jump-start chemical reactions. Scientists long have wondered whether a single enzyme molecule, the smallest machine that could possibly exist, might be able to generate enough force to cause its own movement in a specific direction. A recent publication offers positive evidence for this possibility from recent experiments.

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In-brain monitoring shows memory network

January 30, 2013 10:50 am | News | Comments

Working with patients with electrodes implanted in their brains, researchers in California and Texas have shown for the first time that areas of the brain work together at the same time to recall memories. The unique approach promises new insights into how we remember details of time and place.   

Magnetic nanovehicles control, target drug release in the body

January 28, 2013 10:57 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have designed tiny vessels that are capable of releasing active agents in the body. These “nanovehicles” are made from a liposome just 100 to 200 nm in diameter. By attaching magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles to the surface, scientists are able to target the vessel, heating it up to release the drug.

Study: Digital information can be stored in DNA

January 24, 2013 11:42 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Using genetic material as their medium, researchers reported Wednesday that they had stored all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photo, a scientific paper, and a 26-second sound clip from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. That all fit in a barely visible bit of DNA in a test tube.

New antimicrobial hydrogels fight superbugs and drug-resistant biofilms

January 24, 2013 8:20 am | News | Comments

Bacterial biofilms, which diseased groupings of cells found in 80% of infections, are a significant health hazard and one of the biggest headaches for hospitals and their constant battle against disease. Researchers from IBM, with the help of scientists in Singapore, revealed today a synthetic antimicrobial hydrogel that can break through diseased biofilms and completely eradicate drug-resistant bacteria upon contact. It is the first hydrogel to be biodegradable, biocompatible, and non-toxic.

Controlled graphene crumpling key to artificial muscle

January 23, 2013 3:28 pm | News | Comments

Duke University engineers are layering atom-thick lattices of carbon with polymers to create unique materials with a broad range of applications, including artificial muscles. The lattice, known as graphene, is made of pure carbon and appears under magnification like chicken wire. Because of its unique optical, electrical, and mechanical properties, graphene is used in electronics, energy storage, composite materials, and biomedicine.

Bisphenol A substitute could spell trouble

January 23, 2013 8:35 am | News | Comments

In the same week that a team of researchers in France announced the harmful effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on hormone levels in human tissue, researchers in Texas have demonstrated through experiments that the BPA substitute bisphenol S also disrupts hormone activity at an extremely low level of exposure, and in an even more problematic way.

Study: Harmful effects of bisphenol A proven

January 22, 2013 11:43 am | News | Comments

The compound bisphenol A, which is found in plastics and resins, has been under scrutiny as chemists attempt to determine whether it is a health hazard for humans. According to researchers in France, even weak concentrations of bisphenol A are sufficient to produce a negative reaction in human testicles, reducing the production of testosterone hormones.

Molecular forces are key to proper cell division

January 21, 2013 5:09 pm | News | Comments

The purpose of cell division is to evenly distribute the genome between two daughter cells. But this process is highly prone to interaction errors between chromosomes and spindles. Studies led by cell biologist Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are revealing new details about a molecular surveillance system that helps detect and correct errors in cell division that can lead to cell death or human diseases

Single-celled algae shed light on social lives of microbes

January 21, 2013 4:58 pm | News | Comments

Cheating is a behavior not limited to humans, animals and plants. Even microscopically small, single-celled algae do it, a team of University of Arizona researchers has discovered. Their research adds to the emerging view that microbes often have active social lives. Unlocking the secrets of those lives could help control serious threats to ecological or human health.

One form of neuron turned into another in brain

January 21, 2013 9:53 am | News | Comments

The principle of direct lineage reprogramming of differentiated cells within the body was first proven by Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) co-director Doug Melton and colleagues five years ago, when they reprogrammed exocrine pancreatic cells directly into insulin producing beta cells. Now, the same scientists have proven that neurons, too, can change their mind

A light switch inside the brain

January 18, 2013 11:06 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed an implant that is able to genetically modify specific nerve cells, control them with light stimuli, and measure their electrical activity all at the same time. This new tool relies on an innovative genetic technique that forces nerve cells to change their activity by shining light of different colors onto them.

Tissue engineers find cartilage repair success with new biomaterial

January 14, 2013 4:18 pm | News | Comments

In a small study recently conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine, researchers reported increased healthy tissue growth after surgical repair of damaged cartilage if they put a “hydrogel” scaffolding into the wound to support and nourish the healing process. Physicians encourage cartilage growth by punching tiny holes in bone near the injured cartilage. This stimulates the patients’ stem cells to grow.

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